Hair Loss in Women and Men

Who Experiences Hair Loss And Why

Hair loss and thinning impacts up to 40% of women and 85% of men over the age of fifty, and while more common in older age, hair loss can affect anyone of any age or ethnicity.

There are several risk factors associated with developing hair loss, some of which we have control over, others not. Factors like age, genetics, chronic illness and medical conditions like cancer, hypothyroidism/hyperthyroidism are all things we cannot change. However, deficiencies in vitamin D, iron and protein, over-exercise, stress, medication side-effects, and hair hygiene are all factors we can modify to reduce our risk of hair loss.

Hair Growth Basics

The Hair Follicle

The human scalp houses up to one hundred thousand follicles. These follicles do not generate, therefore the follicles we are born with are with us for life.

The hair follicle is a tunnel-like sack that sits within the skin and contains tiny blood vessels that deliver nutrients to the growing cells. This is the only living part of our hair as it contains actively dividing cells. The part of our hair that we see above the skin is called the hair shaft and is made up of dead hair cells encased in a hard protein called keratin.

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The Growth Cycle

Hair growth occurs in a cycle of three phases, with each hair in various phases of the cycle simultaneously.

  • The first phase, the Anagen or growth phase, can last anywhere from two to eight years. At any given time, approximately 90% of the hair on your scalp is in this phase. Most people grow approximately 1cm every 28 days, but the longer your anagen phase, the greater the potential for hair length.
  • The next phase is called the Catagen phase and it mostly acts as a transition. During this time, the follicle is gradually cut off from the blood supply and stops its growth. Approximately 3% of our hairs will be in this transition at any time for 2-3 weeks.
  • The Telogen or resting phase of the hair growth cycle lasts about 100 days. During this phase, the strands of hair remain in their follicle but are not actively growing. Eventually this strand will be released and shed – allowing a new hair strand to begin its growth.

Factors Impacting Hair Growth

Illness, stress and lack of proper nutrition all cause disruptions in the hair growth cycle and can result in hair loss and or changes in the density and quality of your hair.

When we are lacking certain essential nutrients from vitamins and minerals, we fail to give our hair cells the building blocks they need to thrive. We can be missing these nutrients due to illness, improper nutrition or as a side effect from medications.

Stress also causes major disruptions in the hair growth cycle. Researchers found that mice that were exposed to higher levels of stress hormones displayed not only reduced hair growth from existing hair follicles, but also reduced activation of new follicle development.

Classifications Of Hair Loss

We generally classify hair loss or alopecia into three broad categories:

  • Scarring or inflammatory alopecia which when not treated early can result in irreversible damage.
  • Non-scarring alopecia which does not result in damage to the follicle and is treatable.
  • Structural hair disorders which are mostly impacted by lifestyle factors like improper nutrition and hair hygiene but can also be a result of genetic make-up and various medical conditions.

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Hair Loss In Men

Androgenic Alopecia or Male Pattern Balding is a condition that is caused by a genetic sensitivity to the hormone DHT or dihydrotestosterone. Hair follicles that are overly sensitive to this hormone begin to shrink and reduce in lifespan and eventually stop producing hair all together.

Androgenic alopecia accounts for more than 95% of hair loss in men and impacts approximately 30% of men aged 30 years old, 50% of men by age 50, and 80% of men by age 70. This form of hair loss typically begins with loss of hair at the temples and/or around the top of the head and results in hair thinning and gradually disappearing.

The good news is that this condition is treatable, and the appropriate treatment may trigger hair follicles to resume hair production.

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Hair Loss In Women

Also termed Androgenic Alopecia, Female Pattern Balding is similar to its male counterpart, in that the hair follicles have a genetic sensitivity to the hormone DHT and responds to this hormone by shrinking and producing thinner hair. Thinning hair can begin as young as 12 years old.

13% of premenopausal women and 50-75% of women aged 65 and over are affected by this condition. The hair loss pattern of androgenic alopecia in women is a general thinning at the hair part line, followed by diffuse hair loss radiating from the top of the head rather than balding and receding of the hair line. Just like in men, androgenic alopecia is treatable and further loss can be prevented and new growth may be triggered.

Women also experience other forms of hormonal hair loss in various phases of their lives. Drastic changes can be seen in their hair post pregnancy and during menopause. The shift of hair growth is caused by rapidly decreasing estrogen levels. As estrogen levels drop, hair grows slower and becomes much thinner. Additionally as estrogen levels decrease, they are unable to balance androgens which can cause hair follicles to shrink as in androgenic alopecia.

Post pregnancy hair loss usually peaks about 4 months after giving birth, and will gradually return to normal but can be very distressing. During menopause, estrogen levels gradually decrease and never return. For women in this phase of their lives, it is essential to start treatment early to maintain as much hair quality as possible.

Other Causes Of Hair Loss

While androgenic alopecia is most common, there are several other causes of hair loss that can impact both women and men of any age.
is an autoimmune condition that results in hair loss caused by a person’s own immune system mistakenly attacking its own hair follicles. This attack causes drastically slowing down hair production resulting in one or more small round bare patches on the scalp. About 2% of the population will be impacted by alopecia areata at some point in their lives, but most often occurs between the ages of 15 and 29 and in those with a genetic predisposition for the condition. Researchers are unsure of the cause however the condition may be triggered by environmental, viral or stress-related factors. In this condition hair follicles are not permanently damaged and remain capable of producing hair again and hair will spontaneously reappear in months or years.
is a form of hair loss that occurs as a result of toxins impairing the follicle during the anagen or growth phase of the hair cycle. The result is sudden but reversible balding. This form of hair loss is most often seen in cancer patients because of chemotherapy and radiation but can be caused by other drugs as well. Acne medications, certain antifungal drugs, anticoagulants like heparin and warfarin, immunosuppressants, blood pressure medications, cholesterol lowering medications and certain antidepressant drugs can all cause this form of hair thinning and loss.
is characterized by excessive shedding of hair approximately 2-3 months after a significant shock to the system or stressful event. Triggers such as accidents, surgeries, severe illness, drastic weight loss or significant stress cause an abnormal shift of several hairs into the telogen or shedding phase. Hair will usually grow back within 2-6 months as you will have to follow the new hair growth throughout the growth cycle.
is a fungal infection of the scalp and hair shaft. More commonly referred to as ring-worm, when this infection impacts the scalp it causes a localized scaly patch. If not treated early with anti-fungal medication this condition can cause permanent scarring and hair loss.
is hair loss caused by hair styles or helmets that put stress on the hair follicles by adding repeated tension. If treated early on, this form of hair loss is reversible, but if exposure is prolonged and steps to adjust habits are not taken the hair loss may become permanent.

Hair Loss Prevention

There are many things you can do at home to not only prevent future hair loss but also encourage the health of your hair.
  • Hairstyles that put tension on your hair and tight elastic bands that cause hair breakage.
  • Pulling, twisting and rubbing your hair also adds tension to the follicles and can result in excess loss.
  • Wearing tight fitting helmets and hard hats also adds tension to hair follicles, and while wearing this protective equipment is essential for your safety steps can be taken to minimize damage.
  • Excessive bleaching and coloring of your hair also contributes to it weakening, breakage and the toxins associated with these can also impact future growth.
  • Quit smoking! Exposure to these toxins not only promotes inflammation and stress but also acts similarly to other toxic medications in preventing new hair growth.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet. By ensuring that you are giving your body all the building blocks it needs to build healthy hair, you set yourself up for success. Ensure that you are consuming adequate amounts of protein and healthy fats, and supplement with vitamins and minerals if you are deficient.
  • Scalp massage increases blood flow to the scalp which increases the nutrients available to the follicles which encourages healthier and more rapid growth.
  • Manage your stress! As we know stress not only forces more hair into the telogen phase, but also prevents new hair growth. When our bodies are under stress we allocate resources to the places we need to survive. In the grand scheme of things, your hair is not going to keep you alive, so your body does not prioritize allocated precious resources to hair growth. By keeping your body calm and minimizing stress we give our body permission to feed our hair follicles with the nourishment they need to grow.
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Am I Experiencing Hair Loss?

On average we lose anywhere from 50 to 100 hairs every day. This is considered normal hair loss. Throughout the various phases of hair growth, shedding is part of the process, but where do we draw the line between normal and abnormal hair loss?

Here are some signs you may be experiencing abnormal amounts of hair loss:

  • Widening part
  • Receding hairline
  • Bald patches
  • Pain or itching of the scalp
  • More than your usual loose hair in the brush or comb
  • Regularly clogging the drain

There are also scales that are used to assess patterns of hair loss in women and men. In women we utilize the Ludwig scale to classify female pattern balding. This scale separates hair loss into three types; initial phase of balding, moderate and more noticeable phase and the most severe phase of hair loss. Male pattern hair loss can be measured via the Norwood scale. This scale has seven stages. Each stage measures the severity and pattern of hair loss from no significant hair loss or recession of the hairline to severe male pattern baldness.

The Hair Loss Assessment

During your initial consultation, we will discuss your symptoms and medical history looking for risk factors of hair loss and clues as to what is causing changes to your hair.

We also complete a comprehensive exam of the scalp looking for abnormal signs of hair loss, utilizing diagnostic scales and imaging techniques to assess the severity of your hair loss. We use these same assessment measures to monitor your progress throughout treatment.

We want our patients to not only feel and see results, but we want to be able to measure and give you concrete data on the changes in your hair.

Treatments Available

Given how many people are impacted by various degrees and causes of hair loss there are several treatments that are available.

  • Hair PRP injections improve hair growth not only by delivering nutrients in the plasma directly to the follicles, but the injection itself increases natural blood flow to the scalp forcing the body to send nutrients to the area in order to encourage healthier and more rapid growth.
  • Low level laser therapy is also utilized to increase circulation to the scalp which stimulates hair follicle growth.
  • Hair transplants and scalp reductions are surgical procedures that are often reserved for cases of hair loss unresponsive to other treatments.
  • Over the counter medications like Minoxidil or Rogaine are topical treatments used to promote hair growth. There are also prescription medications such as Finasteride and Spironolactone which are useful in androgen associated hair loss. Hormone replacement therapies can also be useful for women who are experiencing hormone related hair loss. All these medications carry some risk of side effects.
At Pollock Clinics, we are not advocates of using medications to treat hair loss due to the troubling side effects that some commonly prescribed medications can cause. 
 
Certain side effects can be irreversible. Patients should carefully review and understand all possible side effects before agreeing to use medications to treat their hair loss. 

Why Choose Pollock Clinics

For over 25 years, Pollock Clinics has been a trusted provider of expert care in BC.

Our Lower Mainland clinics offer our clients safe and effective treatment for hair loss. Our doctors have decades of experience and the knowledge required to provide great care and thorough follow-up.

We are proud to be able to deliver hair restoration to help women and men address hair loss. To achieve gold standard results for our patients, we invest in the highest quality of products for treatment and the latest and most effective technology and tools available.

Please go ahead and book a consultation to find-out if PRP therapy for thinning hair is right for you.

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